Life is a gift. Live it well.
This past year, two people in my life have passed. Beautiful women. Both in their 30s. Too soon.
Shannon, a woman who had the laugh of a lifetime. I’ve never been a sillier person than I was with her. The shenanigans we’d get into, the days we’d walk around our neighborhood and just…”be” (ahem drink). Or those times we’d meet for Pilates and well, hang out at Prospect Perk, drinking coffee while class was going on. I remember that one time she showed me Dance Dance Revolution on her PlayStation. I quickly became addicted and invited myself over after work for weeks on end just to dance–by myself. Or that time when I went through the most painful heartbreak of my life and she gave me a key to her apartment so I could come over whenever I needed. I would just sit on her couch and stare at the TV. No words necessary. Well, except that one time she had me kill a roach for her. Words and many laughs were exchanged then. And those times she’d call me just to talk. I despise talking on the phone. But every time I hung up with her, I liked it a little more.
And more recently, Julie. Sweet, sweet Julie. Like Shannon, I also met Julie at Edelman, a PR agency that has since shown me what a formidable force it is in my life. Julie and I worked on the multicultural team together with other gorgeous, incredibly smart women whom I call family. I was drawn to Julie’s spirit, her energy, and her love for cheese. I look at my photos with her and I’m almost always right next to her. I really did adore this woman. She made me feel comfortable, at ease. Julie had a knack for genuinely being interested in people. She wanted to know how I was, how I was feeling, what kind of cheese I’ve eaten recently…like every day. And the way she loved her family was admirable. She visited them often and when she would talk about them, especially her niece, she’d get this twinkle in her eye that I’ll never forget. My favorite memory of Julie is seeing her on the dance floor at my Austin wedding nearly nine years ago. She flew all the way out from New York for it. I watched her become fast friends with my friends from Texas and I watched her dance, dance, dance. Her essence was simply magical.
I’ve dealt with a number of losses in the past year. Whether it be death or divorce or a teammate who’s decided to move on or friends who’ve relocated..or even the loss of my old self, the grief still comes whether I like it or not.
What I’ve noticed is that almost every time, I try to invalidate my sadness. I shouldn’t cry about that. Do you even deserve to be sad? Her other friends should be sad, not you. Don’t burden anyone with this. Handle it alone.
The thing is, a loss is a loss. My feelings are my feelings. Love is love. Grief happens when you lose anything, anyone, anywhere whom/that you’ve become attached to whether it be 30 years ago or 30 minutes ago. It’s all valid. And what I’m learning is that it’s only until I understand the realness of my emotions, bring people in, and acknowledge that none of us are alone that I begin to feel better.
That’s what I’m saying “yes” to right now. Bringing people in. Reaching out to others even if it’s been a while. Accepting the sorrow I feel. Reminding myself that I am not alone and don’t need to be.
Shannon and Julie have both left me with sweet memories, some solid life truths, as well as some exquisite gifts. Gifts that I’ll hold in my heart and be grateful for always. Gifts that will help me be a better person. Gifts that make me smile. For all that, I’m thankful.
In loving memory of Shannon F. Chiger (1976-2015) and Julie E. Mendez (1982-2016). Rest in paradise, beauties.